There may be a chill in the air and the winds may fiercely blow in these late days of January, but such conditions are far removed from the icy climates of Scandinavia. Yet shining passions from there have crossed many seas and become world- famed music, shimmering and glowing for more than a century. Two beloved, inspired and inspiring concertos pulse at the heart of these concerts, which also feature two less-known, dynamic, acclaimed symphonies. Moreover, an ever- popular suite brightens the scene. The homelands: Denmark, Norway, Finland, are evoked by extraordinary composers, near to each other in time and place. Two young, increasingly-admired soloists take the spotlights.
Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto may be the most popular of all piano concerti ever. The lyrical, charming and dramatic work needs no further description. That’s on Friday. And revisit the sensuous, sometimes spooky scenes of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt as personified in Grieg’s music for that sprawling adventure. Saturday. Only in his 20s when he wrote these continuing favorites, he wove feelings of Norwegian folk music into the fabric of the melodies and rhythms.
Finland’s Jean Sibelius continued to seek to express the soul of his soil. His Violin Concerto (Saturday) soars with the intensity of dark forests, suddenly pierced by shafts of joyous light. The passionate, indelible masterpiece never fails to stir. His first symphony from just a few years before, the surging, romantic No. 1, has equally romantic depths. It is heard on Friday.
Carl Nielsen’s widely performed and recorded Symphony No. 4 he deliberately called “The Inextinguishable.” He said, against the harrowing backdrop of World War I, that it expresses “the elemental will to live.” Its depth never ceases to move those who witness it. A song of praise to the sun, the “Helios Overture,” adds to this Dane’s brilliance. It is on Friday evening, the Symphony on Saturday.
Soloists Tyson, playing the Grieg stunner, and Hristova, taking on the pyrotechnical challenges posed by Sibelius, both in their late 20s, have arrived on the solo scene garnering much praise. The North Carolina pianist has a tone covering “everything from sensitive to brawny” said the Philadelphia Inquirer. And Bulgarian violinist Hristova was called by the Washington Post “ a player of impressive power and control.”
These seem like two warm, embracing evenings, no matter what the weather.
Jan. 23, 24
NORTHERN LIGHTS FESTIVAL
Omaha Symphony Masterworks Series
Andrew Tyson, pianist
Bella Hristova, violinist
Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Kiewit Hall, Holland Center
1200 Douglas St.
8 p.m. Tickets $19-$80